Friday, July 31, 2009

Landfill update, such as it is (redux)

I did get a call back from Brian Derrivan. He was not absolutely sure about the Noisome Trade agreement but said he had a call in to the mayor and an email in to Dick Chalpin at DEP.

Apparently the DEP monitor (who is from Shaw Environmental) goes around every day and puts red flags where there are breakouts of H2S and/or leachate and New Ventures is supposed to fix it that day.

Derrivan, however, said he is not clear on DEP protocols for this or for odor control and consequences for not fixing the problem. That's why he was trying to contact Chalpin.

He is concerned that odor complaints are coming in during the day - most of the complaints are usually in the early morning or evening/night. He is also concerned about how the area has increased (the area of complaints, that is).

The number of complaints seems to have gone up this week - you know, since DEP has been on site (excluding last week's big breakout that apparently was stinking up W. Newbury).

In the meanwhile, I just got an email from crowlane.information@massmail.state.ma.us, which is where everyone is encouraged to send questions, comments and suggestions.

In addition to the promised email updates, correspondence and reports are posted on the MassDEP Northeast Region web site at http://www.mass.gov/dep/about/region/crowlane.htm.

Also in the meantime, Ron Klodenski squeaked - he sent an email to Health Director Jack Morris asking him to enforce the Noisome Trade rules at the landfill. I do, believe, however, that Friday afternoons Morris works in Amesbury.

I'd better post this before the power goes out again - massive amts. of rain pouring down ...

"Squeak I tell you, squeak"

So the buzz on the street (email) is that the much-touted Noisome Trade Agreement - the one that is supposed to save us all from the ravages of New Ventures - ends once all the construction and demolition material is dumped at the landfill.

This momentous event - the end of C&D material - will take place in about 2 weeks. And guess what? Apparently there's no money in the budget to put another noisome trade agreement in place.

Remember the mayor saying it was OK to circumvent the host community agreement because we had the Noisome Trade Agreement to dangle over the landfill owner's head?

Well now, boys and girls, we can rely on the DEP to make everything alright. Because the city apparently has washed its hands of the landfill and has put the onus on the state.

Screw the people who have been, and still are, inhaling hydrogen sulfide at unknown levels. Hey, the other day it was reported that New Ventures' Jerome meters went offline. Where was the health dept. or DEP when that happened?

Did everything shut down at the landfill until the meters were working again? Duh ... no.

And some people wanted to share this extraordinary service with 2 neighboring communities.

I'm just waiting for the fire to break out.

I have a call in to Brian Derrivan in the hopes that he explain all this.

Ohhhh my power just went off for a minute.

Cooked vs. raw

A friend pointed out on Facebook this piece from Salon.com, about cooked vs. raw food. The person who originally posted it noted that Newburyport is slated to get a raw food restaurant soon.

I had not heard that, I don't think. Reminds me of that episode of "Sex and the City" where the character Samantha eats yucky raw food entrees because she's hot for the waiter.

"Anthropologist Richard Wrangham has a provocative theory on human evolution. It starts with food and an open flame"

Anyway, the article goes on to have Wrangham say, among other things, that how in every society - ever - women cooked for men.

In every single society women cook for men. And, what's more fascinating, in many societies you can really say that food or domestic promiscuity is far more serious than sexual promiscuity. In other words, it's more of a breach of social convention for a woman to feed the wrong man than it is for her to have sex with him.

Interesting, huh? I know I had this long, involved conversation on FB with a man and some of it involved cooking. I think I said I wasn't that good at cooking (which is not strictly the case - I do just fine with a recipe), which if Wrangham is to be believed, explains a lot.

That may have been my 'strike two.' I'm not saying what 'strike one' was (it's nothing thrilling, believe me).

I know that from our perspective in the West, where we tend to focus even more than other societies on questions of sexual morality, it's rather an immoral suggestion that I'm making -- basically that men set themselves up with wives in order to have the freedom to be men, as it were -- and then go ahead and design their sexual strategy from that point on.

So - if a man doesn't have to worry about feeding himself, he can be free to be a man (whatever that entails these days).

I was going to point out some instances in my (extended) family of women who were married but who couldn't cook for shit. Then I remembered that their husbands may not have been that interested in women, good cook or not.

My mother and my sisters are all excellent cooks, btw.

Should I sally forth with a hunk of roast beef strapped to my chest? Apparently the roasted meat would be of more interest to a man than my chest.

Very interesting ...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No slice of Jack for you or you*

There were many objections from both the council and from the audience and it's a sad day for Amesbury and Salisbury.

Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer's Chief of Staff Kendra Amaral exited city council chambers, cheeks flaming. At-large councillor and candidate for mayor Donna Holaday looked pale and drawn. James Shanley was James Shanley (he's nothing if not consistent).

Holaday, who criticized people who criticized the agreement without reading it, went on the rail against the city's previous animal control officer, saying we would have, "better animal control services than ever before in this city."

That went over really well with our last ACO, Becky Taylor, who was in the audience. After the meeting, Holaday was accosted in the hallway by both people from Newburyport and from Amesbury, where the long-time ACO was booted in anticipation of this agreement going through.

Turned out that Holaday was referring to Carol LaRoque, who was 2 ACOs ago. Holaday's objection was that LaRoque worked for both Newburyport and Newbury (where she works now).

Someone informed Holaday that LaRoque worked for Newbury in addition to Newburyport and was not in fact working in Newbury on our dime, as Holaday apparently thought.

I will note here that Becky once came to my house at 10 p.m. to rescue a loose dog that had slumped on my porch.

The rest of it was all about dollars and the landfill. At-large councillor Steve Hutcheson pointed out that the stated $37,646 in "savings" did not include the cost of coming up with (8 or so versions of) the agreement or any other costs that no one knows about.

Hutcheson said after the meeting that you can't have zero expenses when there were expenses. That was pretty amusing.

The words "dilution of services" were said a lot.

Mayor John Moak told the Council that the city can now stop monitoring the landfill as much because the DEP is on the case now. And we know how effective DEP has been at staying on New Ventures' case (sorry Dick Chalpin).

He also said that the in this case, the mayor does not have the power to opt out of the contract - it's in the hands of the City Council, he said.

Sort of like how the landfill Host Community Agreement is in the City Council's hands?

Good grief!

Landfill neighbor Mary Wolf said that some DEP person told her earlier today - at her home - that the landfill won't be capped until next year (as opposed to the schedule, which outlines numbers of days and penalties for not meeting the schedule and such).

The only 2 candidates for public office that I could identify in the audience were both from Ward 3: Robert Cronin and Dawne Shand. Ari Herzog is out of town because of a death in the family.

Barry Connell was not at the meeting. I believe he also has a family issue.

*Credit to the Ward 4 councillor for the inspiration

Shared health services goes down, 3-7

Ed Cameron, Donna Holaday and James Shanley - three once and two 'future' (to coin a phrase) candidates for mayor and the only 3 city councillors who tonight voted for the shared health services agreement with Amesbury and Salisbury.

Details to follow -

Wind energy does not wow 'em

I got an email from Ed Cameron this morning saying that last night's Planning & Development committee meeting on the wind energy ordinance had been canceled.

"I became aware that we would not have a quorum at about 5:20PM," Cameron wrote.

The meeting was posted as a Committee-of-the-Whole, which means they all should/would have been there.

I wonder how often this happens? It happened recently, at some committee or the other - oh, it was the Ad Hoc Independent Counsel committee - but the missing councillor had a family emergency.

Just in case you were wondering ... I had not planned on going, in any case, since I only saw the original email notifying me about it at 5 minutes to 7.

Dems want to crack down on driving & "texting"

Aside from the 'word' texting being annoying since it isn't a word at all - according to the standards of the English language - now it's being reported that texting while driving is more hazardous than driving drunk.

The piece is about how Dem legislators want to make it illegal to text and drive. Trying to legislate stupidity never works.

Btw, I have sent, I think, a grand total of one text message in my life. It was an experiment and my nephew had to help me type it.

My other neighbor (not the one who works at the bank) thinks it's somehow a tribute to her skills that she can drive and text, or drive and apply mascara (which she did while I was in the car with her on I-95) ... or even drive with an open container of alcoholic beverage in one hand.

Oh - and she doesn't wear a seatbelt, either. I kind of understand that - seatbelts are not designed for female bodies with breasts larger than a mosquito bite.

I haven't been posting much this week because I've been in a foul mood. This kind of stuff doesn't help.

I'm just holding myself back from posting about men and their little "tests" about whether you're worthy and how a whole generation (or two) of them think that ignoring someone they lured in, in the first place, is a good plan.

Pffft. I've got a blog - and I know how to use it.

Questions: Regionalization of Health Department

These are not my questions, they are someone else's questions. But they're good questions.

1. What are the current services provided by the Health Department by time allocated? I.e. how many hours per restaurant inspections, septic, counter/public assistance etc. This should be expressed by FTE or Full Time Equivalents to allow for a comparison to the next question. Essentially how does the Health Director, staff and consultants allocate their time? What is the duration of the data, or how long has it been collected, does it take into account seasonal variation?

2. What are the planned services provided by the Health Department by the FTE time allocated after regionalization? I.e. how many hours per restaurant inspections, septic, counter/public assistance etc. Who is performing these tasks? Is there a table comparing the time allocation for Newburyport only and Regionalization? Essentially is regionalization the result of an analysis with real local data, or is it a response to a trend in government without any supporting local data?

3. Are there alternate scenarios that save more money without regionalization? Has a report on those alternatives been developed and the regionalization alternative voted as the most optimal to proceed?

4. Given the current level of service, has anyone determined if the services are currently sufficient or are there areas the Health Department should expand or improve services in Newburyport? Essentially how do we know if what we do today is good enough?

5. Have there been scenarios developed that would address possible increased spike in demand from each community, and, are there contingency plans based on these scenarios? Access to additional staff via contract?

6. Is there a benchmarking analysis comparing like communities and their service platforms as individual communities and then as regionalized services? If there is no analysis then what are the criteria baseline operations? How will we know if this works? What are the indicators and how do they relate to services levels and performance?

7. What outreach has been conducted to the Health Department stakeholders such as septic installers, restaurant owners, landfill neighbors, the hospital, local physicians and nursing associations, public safety officials etc? Are they concerned, or satisfied with the current level of services, are there areas that need improvement, or are not needed?

8. Given the Health Department is a permitting and enforcement entity, and most businesses would not want to “rock the boat”, has the review with stakeholders who seek permits or licenses been done anonymously to provide open responses?

9. Have these stakeholders been informed of any service changes, operational needs, application requirements, and had the opportunity to comment? Have the changes in applications methods, fees and other administrative issues been approved as required by each community?

10. Is there an evaluation methodology to determine if the program is successful? What are the measurable components of the methodology, and who determines if the performance outcomes are met? When the evaluation is conducted, what are the milestones, under what conditions; public hearing etc.?

11. What are the protocols for responding to health emergencies when the demands conflict between municipalities? What town will receive priority services and under what criteria is the community triage going to occur.

12. What if a health issues in one community is caused by the actions of another community? Are there conflict of interest disclosures planned to be filed in each community?

13. Each community has emergency operations plans, or policies, or other like plans. In each of these plans it is necessary that the Health Department plays a specific role. Have the plans in each community been reviewed to determine if a joint crisis across three communities can be addressed by one department? Has that review been conducted with the respective public safety officials? Have or will the plans be amended to reflect the change in operational response based on the Regionalization?

14. Given that each community views enforcement, proactive programs, and other issues differently, how will the Health Director reconcile the policy shifts between communities and sustain credibility by providing consistent response and actions? What are the ordinances and policy directions in each community and how do they relate to the Health Director’s methodologies? How does one handle the diverse precedents when the Health Director could be called into court and asked to respond to a question such as: Why did you enforce this issue against my client in Town “A” but not in Town “B”? Is there a policy across the three communities that reconciles the various approaches and provides consistency? How do the departmental mission statements and objectives of each community align? Have the application methods in each community been reconciled to create a consistent approach?

15. What happens in the event the Health Director is required to act as an enforcement agent against a municipality based on a vote of the Board of Health of that community? (i.e., leaking sewer line with no action by Town, or Water boil order ignored by Town, etc. ) How is that handled when an employee of Newburyport, the Health Director, may act against another community as an agent of that community by agreement? Can the community terminate the regionalization contract to stop the enforcement by the Health Director? What happens to the residents of that community if that occurs? Who protects their interests?

16. The next three questions assume that consultants will fill inspectional gaps. The Health Department most likely will be augmented with consulting staff paid by a fee system, such as restaurant inspectors, septic inspectors etc. Who sets the standards for the consultants, are the standards available? Have or will they be procured within the required statutes? Who evaluates the consultants? How does a business or person grieve consultants’ services? Who holds the contract with the consultants? If Newburyport holds the contract what is our liability for negligence by a consultant? Consultants are typically asked to post a bond for insurance purposes, will this happen and for how much?

17. The use of consultants diverts revenue from the City to the consultants from the licenses and or fees to cover the costs of inspections. Has there been an analysis on lost revenues which could be paid to the general fund and will now be paid to consultants? If City staff performs the inspections under Newburyport only scenarios, does the revenue exceed the regionalization benefit?

18. Given consultant based services, how do you manage complaints and investigate abutter’s concerns when you will not get a fee because there is no permit fee required to file a complaint. Essentially who determines if a septic system is not to code when the request is not based on a fee paid for a permit but a complaint by an abutter? Do you charge people for complaints? How many complaints were issued for all of the communities across all service sectors for health?

19. Has each community done every conceivable management and budget analysis before regionalization was considered? Are there other areas that could be regionalized that would not dramatically affect health services? What is the actual net savings in dollars to Newburyport, without caveats? Have the respective Finance staff of each community independently reviewed and certified the numbers?

I don't have a lot to say about this agreement, except that instinct tells me that it's not good. The whole landfill situation has given me a bad taste for how our health dept. deals with deals gone bad.

Add to that the fact that the famous 'independent" legal opinions all came from the same law firm ... the one that is also advising about the landfill ... and we can all see (and smell) how that's going.

I guess I did have a lot to say.

Buy a book to help this family

I was just a while ago talking to my neighbor who works for the Five Cents Savings Bank.

She told me that yesterday, her branch raised more than $200 for the Nolan M. Smith Fund through the book sale they organized.

I tell ya, there's nothing like getting a book for cheap and helping out a local family (they're from Amesbury). Can you even imagine having to be at the hospital round-the-clock with your 1-year-old, who has brain cancer?

I'm all for helping folks in other countries, but I think we need to take care of our own first and foremost.

The sale is ongoing at the bank's Storey Ave. branch (in the plaza), and it ends on Saturday.

A message from Jeff Krumrine

In case you aren't going to the City Council meeting about regionalization:

I am an active volunteer with the community development organization Long Way Home, Inc.

We are hosting a very important fundraiser tonight at the Mission Oak Grill, 26 Green St., from 7 to 9 p.m.

The purpose of the event is to raise the nearly $6,000 needed to ship a fire engine to the Guatemalan city of San Juan Comalapa!

I know this sounds a little crazy but the firefighters there still use buckets to fight home and forest fires.

This is a great opportunity to have a nice evening with friends and also save lives in the future.
Last fall, three LWH staff drove a 2003 Dodge cargo van stocked with donated firefighting equipment to Guatemala. The Comalapa firefighters had several fundraisers of their own in order to purchase the van and convert it to a functioning ambulance.

The events of the evening will include live music, cash bar, food and an art auction. Featured art pieces for auction will include an original painting, donated by my very good friend and local artist Alan Bull, of the fire engine.

Three oil paintings donated by Guatemalan painter Oscar Peren will also be auctioned. Local artists Paula Estey, Renee Schneider, Jill Herrick, Janet Parker, Zsuzsanna Donnell, Cheryl Noyes and Meg Alfoni will also donate items for purchase.

The fire engine will be parked out front throughout the evening.

Admission will be $5 per person.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Help needed

Through the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank’s employee-driven Spirit of Giving program, more than 1,300 books have been donated to help raise money for the Nolan M. Smith Fund

Newburyport MA - July 28th, 2009 – Through the efforts of the Bank’s Storey Ave staff, more than 1,300 books have been donated and a bake sale is planned to help raise needed money for ongoing cancer treatment expenses for Nolan M. Smith – a local 1 yr old who is fighting cancer. The book and bake sale will begin on Wednesday, July 29th and ends on Saturday, August 1st and is being held at the bank’s 21 Storey Ave branch (Market Basket Plaza).

All proceeds from the book and bake sales will go directly to the Nolan M. Smith Fund. For more information please visit: www.teamnolie.com ... or read my story in the Current.

Bank information, please contact:

Andrew Witherbee
Marketing Director
978-462-3936

Claire Mills
Branch Manager – Storey Ave
978-462-0722

Final

Well there ya go ... congratulations to everyone; there will be no preliminary elections.

News flash

Ed Cameron is certified.

OK, so current City Councillors also certified are: Steve Hutcheson and Kathleen O'Connor Ives.

I just called the Clerk's Office and Greg Earls was there turning in his papers. Tom Jones is reportedly on his way over.

So I think that takes care of the sitting councillors ... oh, nope, not Derrivan ...

And I hear that Mr. Sweeney is being "cagey." (I heard that from someone not in the Clerk's Office.)

I'm not going to bug them again until close to 5 p.m.

I have an idea

Since Newburyport is so into sharing services with neighboring communities, how about we 'share' that giant (ugly) CVS that was just built in Salisbury Square and leave our perfectly reasonable-sized one alone?

I'm with fellow blogger Tom Salemi on this one.

While I understand that property owners have the right to do whatever they will with their property, I seem to recall someone named Steve Karp standing up in front of us and telling us how much he loved Newburyport.

So, yeah, let's put some locals out of business. That's true love.

Giant corporations have already cheapened our lives and taken the love and caring out of communities.

Where are all those corner stores I keep hearing about every time I interview a native? I used to enjoy one, when I lived on Beacon Hill. There was a cobbler there, too, across from the State House ... where's the cobbler here?

Who needs one? If you only pay a few dollars for a pair of shoes, who's willing to pay to have them fixed?

Well, my neighbor needs one, actually.

It's time to push back against this cheapening, this whitewashing - call it what you will - of everything around us.

Not too long ago, I heard a local developer being called "The Desecrater." Where are the harsh words for New England Development? If Karp gets his access through the waterfront, watch out.

This CVS/White Hen thing is just the tip of the iceberg.

I used to go to my native land, England, because I enjoyed the green grocer, the butcher and etc. Now all you see there is mega-stores. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

And do let us remember General Motors and how it dominated a certain city in Michigan that is now in ruins because people got sick of buying shoddily-manufactured cars once something better - and cheaper - was put in front of them.

How about we force ourselves to do better?

Beware of misleading statements

Yeah, right, Councillor.

I was just reading Donna Holaday's "Viewpoint" about shared health services in some recent issue of the Daily News when I came across this:

This shared-services agreement has been carefully developed over many months with representatives from each municipality and thoroughly reviewed by each community's legal services.


Ha! They all use the same one - Kopelman & Paige. I found that out when I went to Amesbury's Municipal Council - it was said, right up front, by I believe Roger Benson.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Different Steve Coles

That's it - they were different Steve Coles.

One is Steven P. Cole, of the School Committee, and the other is Stephen Cole, not of the School Committee.

Speaking of the School Committee, all three of the candidates are certified and are locked in because there are only three vacancies.

And speaking of locked in, so are Brian Derrivan (Ward 5), Greg Earls (Ward 2) and Tom O'Brien (Ward 6), who will run unopposed. Some people say they should be locked up ... oh, I'm KIDDING.

I thought, right up until Friday at 5 p.m., that my pal Ron Klodenski would pull papers for mayor. I'm so bummed out now.

It's too damn hot

It's too hot to blog today ... talk among yourselves about the scarcity of candidates for public office, or something.

But still ... I did not realize that Steve Cole and Dan McCarthy ran for mayor both in 2005 and 2007 (perhaps even before that?).

I updated the list to reflect that Dawne Shand returned her forms (actually, she did it a couple of weeks ago) and so did Barry Connell, this morning.

Now if I can just figure out how to get in touch with this Frances Sullivan, without having to go bang on her door ...

Oh, well ... back to languishing on the couch.

Friday, July 24, 2009

That's all, folks!

So ... just some or all of the people listed on the sidebar will be running for public office.

Just called the Clerk's Office - no one came in today to pull nomination papers.


Steve Cole, who's running for re-election to School Committee, brought in his papers and was certified.

Speaking of that's all - I feel it incumbent upon me to mention that Dan Sweeney told me a while back that his son had applied for a job at DPW.

I'm not going to say he was "cleared from the field," to use his phrasing in an earlier comment, but when I spoke with him earlier, he did emphasize that it was his immediate family that had an issue with him running for mayor.

And that's my idle speculation for the week.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Stormy weather: beach update


Here are some photos of took at the beach about half an hour ago. I was happy to see that nature is taking its course and some of the sandbags are being covered back up through the natural process. You probably can't see it, but there were people further up the beach who were going into the surf. A whole bunch of people.













Regionalization vote next Thurs.

I was just notified that the mayor has called a special meeting for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, "for the purpose of voting on a health services agreement with Amesbury and Salisbury."

The date was chosen to work around some of the Yankee Homecoming events.

By the way ...

Dan Sweeney is out of the race for mayor.

Here's a story from the July 16 Globe North that says just that. I apologize - I totally missed it. Not only that, but I've spoken to Sweeney in person since the story came out.

I just spoke with Sweeney again (I used up his break time) ... and he said he thought I was aware he wasn't running when we spoke last week.

As my old boss used to say, "Never assume anything!'

Not saying it's his fault,mind you ...

Anyway, he is not running because his immediate family was not supportive of him being mayor. He had 274 signatures on his nomination form, but he's not turning in the papers.

"I still retain my conservative Yankee stance," he told me.

He said he had a long phone conversation with Donna Holaday, who apparently called him because she was concerned about him blabbing, basically. He said he has not spoken with James Shanley, the other contender for mayor.

In the conversation, he went over his concerns about regionalization of health services and explained to Holaday about the hidden costs of Youth Services being in Kelley School, for example (DPW people have to maintain the building, taking them away from other duties).

I hope Holaday was taking notes. It seems she's been trying to get the delinquent list of people who have not paid their water/sewer bills, as have other councillors (not having any luck with that, apparently), and he and I both hope she makes that part of her campaign.

Sweeney said he told Holaday he will have to be convinced to back her, but added maybe she doesn't care if he does or does not.

OH - and he told me Barry Connell was at the Sewer Commission meeting this week and Connell made a public disclosure to commissioners about his association with the American Yacht Club.

Election update

I updated the candidates list to reflect that Donna Holaday is certified as a candidate for mayor and Ari Herzog is certified as a candidate for city councillor-at-large.

Today is the deadline for pulling nomination papers and the Clerk's Office will stay open until 5 p.m.

Tuesday (July 28) is the dealine to return the papers, with the necessary 50 signatures.

It's enough to make you go crazy

Here's the report in today's Daily News about the landfill smell spread from yesterday.

Heh, the mayor is still not convinced the "burnt" odor is coming from the landfill.

I talked with Dick Chalpin of the DEP after the meeting on Tuesday evening (actually, he approached me and asked me if I was Gillian and told me he reads the blog), and I asked him about the possibility of the landfill burning.

They had already sort of addressed that during the meeting, when Ron K. stood up and said "a local writer" had suggested the landfill might be burning.

The DEP did not totally rule it out, although Chalpin said there most likely would be smoke. But DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt said during the meeting to Ron that, "we are trying to get to the bottom of that."

John Carrigan, head guy of this region for DEP, said that there was no evidence of spontaneous combustion (I guess a smell isn't evidence) and that the conditions at the landfill are inconsistent with combustion.

But then - if there's smell, I suppose logic says there should be smoke.

I checked on the Everett board but I don't see any mention of a fire at the Wood Waste facility in Everett. Someone had said that they had heard that New Ventures was bringing in charred material from a fire there.

I don't know - I recall smelling that "burnt" smell months ago, in the winter, when I was at Port Plaza (north of the landfill) and more recently, at Dunkin' Donuts on the traffic circle (south of the landfill).

And by the way - the DEP commissioner said that the DEP has never put the 21E 'blight' on the city but rather it is on New Ventures. It has always been New Ventures - and the mayor - who has made it seem as if the responsibility is on the city to clean up any potential hazardous waste.

Another misdirection, another concession to the landfill owner. Pfffft, I say, pffffft.

I did not write a story on the landfill for this week's Current because the editor, Barbara Taormina, wrote one. But I'm doing one today on Examiner.com.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Check that

People in W. Newbury were complaining about the landfill smell today. Those W. Newbury people are such whiners.

Where's the governor when you need him to be in the city?

Maybe this will get his attention.

Trouble on Turkey Hill

So I gather there was a big hulabaloo over on Turkey Hill Rd. this morning - geesh, I leave the city and all hell breaks loose.

I hear there were fire trucks, gas company trucks and sewer department trucks, all called by residents over there on the other side of I-95.

What could it have been?

You have 3 guesses ... and if the word LANDFILL didn't immediately spring to mind, then I got nothin' else to say.

On second thought, when do I have nothing else to say?

Well, now.

Except I'll say this: I had phone messages and emails, all about the landfill. One person, who lives on Crow Lane but the other side of I-95, wrote

For the first time in 14 years. I can smell the landfill.

I live on the Turkeyhill side of crow lane.

It stinks. Yuk


Oh joy. Anyone want to take bets on how long it takes before it hits West Newbury?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Landfill mini-brief

No odor complaints from the landfill yesterday - but there's one so far this morning.

DEP Commissioner Laurie Burt toured the landfill yesterday, early afternoon. I hear owner William Thibeault turned on the charm.

I'm not clear yet on what my 2 allotted stories for the Current are this week, but check my page on Examiner.com for reports that don't make it into the Current.

Thank you; I have to work now on stuff that actually pays.

Last night's ConCom meeting

Hey, a presentation on Newburyport's Beach Management Plan can be seen here. The Conservation Commission also had a hearing last night on the plan, which is a necessary part of this whole dredging/beach nourishment project.

Speaking of which, the public hearing on the dredging was also held last night, with only one resident present to listen and comment.

There were very few answers to the board's questions because the exact plans will be determined by the contractor, apparently.

  • Nobody knows the specific type of machinery that will be used to place the pipe on the beach or in the nourishment project.
  • Nobody knows exactly how much sand will be dredged, although the 160,000 cu yards is the target.
  • Nobody knows what effect this pipe will have on the beach, vis a vis erosion, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not think it will have any effect.
  • Nobody knows the sequence - will Salisbury Beach be done first, or the PI beach?
  • Nobody knows what the pipe will be made from and ...
  • Nobody could say what would happen if the pipeline breaks or separates.
  • Nobody could say what a contractor might do when a storm is forecast - except for get the barge the hell out of there.
What they could say:

  • The window for the project(s) is Oct. 1 to March 14.
  • There will be just the one barge for the whole project.
  • A floating pipe will go from the dredging barge, over the jetty and then be connected to the pipe that will run down the beach to Newbury.
  • The pipe will be 22-24" in diameter.
  • The contractor will be "fairly well-known" because it will be an unrestricted bid.
  • The dredging/nourishment operation will be 24/7.
  • The whole thing will take about 2 months.
One thing I did notice, from the Beach Management Plan presentation: the only place on the Newburyport beach where there is an erosion problem is the one place where houses are not set well back from the dune. That would be at 55th St.

Nobody could say where the pipe will fit there or what effect it would have on the sandbags a resident had installed between his house and the beach to protect the house from the surf. According to the presentation, the beach there is only 90 ft. wide.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another one pulls papers for ....

I totally forgot to report that one Allison Heartquist of 23 Reservation Terrace (PI) today took out nomination papers for Ward 1 City Councillor.

She was the first person to take out papers in about a month.

Governor's meeting

Nothing Earth-shattering at the gov's town hall meeting, as far as I could determine. I had to leave before it ended to go to the ConCom meeting (I walked in moments before they started with the Newburyport stuff).

Luckily, my Current editor was there to continue taking notes.

The only thing of note, really, was that it seemed as if all the Repubs stormed out before I did. Well, I guess "stormed" is too strong a word. So the gov was randomly assigning the order for questions, in waves, and I guess they got mad that he didn't call on any of them?

How would he know they were Republicans? They shouldn't look so angry, I guess!

Ron K, it seems from Barbara's notes, got in a question about the landfill - but there had been the DEP meeting right before.

Also from a scan of Barbara's notes, someone asked a lot of questions/commented about cutbacks in the police force and a Republican contender for John Tierney asked questions about the sales tax hike.

Looks like the gov said he "is open" to rolling it back when revenues increase.

He had a lot of his cabinet people on hand to supplement his answers, which I don't believe happened last year in Amesbury.

It was all very sociable and social - and the governor brought his puppy along. If anyone has any questions, ask away and I'll try to answer them.

Check back later

I'm getting ready to leave for City Hall in a bit.

I absolutely will update everyone later about both what the DEP commissioner had to say and what Gov. Patrick said.

Gov. will be in City Hall

I was just notified by the governor's press office that the venue has changed from the park to the auditorium on the second floor of City Hall.

It's still at 6:30.

Is the landfill burning?

I found this portion of a news story online. It's about a landfill in San Francisco that was in 2000 burning undergound.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Navy announced Tuesday that metals and petroleum have been found in the ground and benzene in the air around a landfill which has been burning underground for four weeks. It was not immediately known whether those materials found at Hunter’s Point Shipyard were present at levels harmful to the public and the Navy continued to evaluate the results. Navy officials also announced they had hired a landfill expert in hopes of finding a way to put out the smoldering fire that has troubled residents in the Hunter’s Point area of the city and frustrated the Environmental Protection Agency which maintains that the military waited too long, more than three weeks, to tell anyone about the problem.

I also found a whole series of stories from SF Weekly.com, starting with this one, from 1998. On the site you can also access the whole series of reports about this landfill.

And then there's this, about a landfill in Ohio with an underground fire:

Those issues include a determination by an EPA consultant that the landfill has two fires smoldering underground, and that's causing carbon monoxide, heat and odor.

A landfill neighbor at the meeting last night said that when she went to the hospital because of dizziness, they found carbon monoxide in her blood.

I'm not saying the Crow Lane landfill is burning, but where there's smell of fire (no matter what the mayor says) there's usually a fire.

Oh, and then there's this, also from the Ohio story:

State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, said, "I think (the EPA) came to the right decision through analysis of the situation and an understanding of the magnitude of the problem."

In a Jan. 25 letter to Korleski, Schuring requested the landfill's operating permit be delayed, suspended or denied until problems are corrected.

"I'm very happy with the recommendation to not renew at this time," said State Rep. Allan R. Sayre, D-Dover. "It's refreshing to have a director who is truly out for the best interest of the people."

State Sen. John Boccieri, D-New Middletown, said Countywide has to be forced into compliance, though that doesn't mean the landfill should be shut down permanently. He said it's important the Ohio EPA regulate such nuisances instead of putting the burden of proof on citizens.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A collection of information

OK, so the Gov. Patrick thing tomorrow will be outside if the weather is good and inside City Hall if the weather is bad.

The DEP commissioner will be arriving in town at about 12:30. She's coming out here to the beach and then to the landfill, where I'm (again) sure all will be hunky-dory.

The public meeting may not start until 4:30, according to Brian Derrivan at tonight's Ad Hoc Indpendent Counsel meeting, which wasn't a meeting because there wasn't a quorum. But those who were there took suggestions from the people in the audience about what to ask the DEP commissioner.

Ron Klodenski and some other people were talking after the meeting and I brought up the DEP's "concerns" about using sand from the beach for these toe dikes they use during beach nourishment.

Ron - who seems to be up on everything - said the sand has to be compatible with the sand already on the beach as far as organisms and such goes. So that makes sense, as much as any of this makes sense.

As for me, I'll be happy if I can get through this week without alienating or offending anyone.

Greenheads

Everyone is asking me to write something about the greenheads ... well, two people asked.

I have not seen any here where I am on Plum Island, but anecdotal reports suggest they are at the beach - but they are not as bad as usual.

This is just my own conclusion, but I think the 2 weeks of rain probably helped somewhat.

I'll try to get a more informed opinion tomorrow, but in the meantime, get thee to the beach and while there wear some Skin-So-Soft, which I am told also repels the pesky little flies.

Clerk's office to stay open late on Friday

Friday is the deadline for pulling nomination papers for public office.

I was just at the clerk's office and learned that the office will stay open until 5 p.m. (instead of closing at noon, as is usual for a Friday).

Also - Tricia Barker, the assistant city clerk who certifies candidates, will not be in the office the next 2 days, so anyone who turns in completed papers Tues. or Wed. won't be certified until Thursday.

She invited me in to keep her company on Friday ... I may do that, actually.

"Live from the Newburyport City Clerk's office ... it's Friday night!"

DEP commissioner will be here tomorrow

This was on the old email when I got home, from Brian Derrivan (the emphasis is mine):

As you all know the Governor will be in Newburyport Tuesday evening for his town hall meeting and I'm sure you will all have many questions for him. For the past few weeks Councilor Cameron, Mayor Moak and myself have been trying to get the DEP to come and answer residents and councilors concerns regarding the final closure and berm report. I'm happy to say that Tuesday afternoon DEP commissioner Laurie Burt will be in town to tour the Crow Land Landfill and Plum Island. The commissioner will then hold a public meeting at 4:00pm at city hall. I ask all of you to please attend if at all possible.

I would also like to let everyone know the the DEP will have a representative from Shaw Environmental at the landfill on a daily basis starting next week doing there own monitoring of all activities, and that the DEP will be conducting air quality studies so we can find out what the other odors have been and if they are coming from the Landfill.

More landfill

I see that Councillor Donna Holaday has taken a pre-emptive strike with the whole independent counsel/mayor's response to landfill concerns dealie.

This morning Holaday sent her response to Moak's letter around via the email chain.

I'll just put question #12 on here, with the mayor's response and Holaday's following his:

Question 12. What is the current timetable for completing landfill closure? And what responsibilities will the city have and will New Ventures have post-closure?

Mayor’s response: My understanding of what will happen at the landfill during the next two months is the following: C&D materials will continue to be delivered until the valley is filled. Trucks with sand and topsoil will arrive and material will be brought to the top of the plateau and distributed over the existing FML and stockpiled for the remainder of the FML. Once a report on the berm is received, New Ventures will begin the completion of the berm and the final access road. The goal is to have a majority of the seeding done by early October. My goal is to have it completely seeded by October. Because of the 21E agreement, we have no responsibility for post-closure activities.

Comments and Remaining Questions (DH): My concern as this juncture is the apparent lack of a pre-developed and approved plan to address the haul road and break through into previously filled areas releasing high levels of H2S. It is also clear that new odor has developed as it is not reading on the Jerome meters. I would like to see additional testing of air quality to determine what the smell that has been described as ‘sewage’, ‘burnt material’ and other. The bottom line is several residents are exhibiting severe health symptoms and we need to know what we are dealing with and how to mitigate these effects. I am encourage that DEP has been responsive and at the site including responding to a call recently at 11 PM. Finally, residents need advance notification of upcoming procedures and if there is potential for additional blows and what plans are in place to address these.

Severe health symptoms? Isn't that one of the (if not the only) criteria the city can use for shutting New Ventures down?

More beach stuff

I neglected to post on Friday that the Newbury Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved the application to re-build that house that was razed last year on the beach.

Here's Victor Tine's story, from last Friday.

I feel really, really bad for the owner, Geri Buzzotta - but I still think this is insanity. Go over to the beach and look at the spot where the house was. It's all covered with green again and it looks as if the dune is starting to stabilize itself.

Insanity.

More about the beach

I was waiting for Victor Tine's piece to come out in the DN before commenting further on Friday's beach alliance meeting. And here it is.

I spoke briefly with Mark Habel from the Corps of Engineers after the meeting about how he said in the meeting that the project's benefit:cost analysis reveals that the benefit is an estimated $1 million in delaying the loss of property. The cost for the beach nourishment is $1.8 million.

That word "delaying" intrigued me so that's what I asked him about.

Everybody knows this nourishment project is only good for 4-5 years, right?

Habel said that without the nourishment, the ocean would break through "because that's what it wants to do" and that's what has happened, historically. Barrier islands shift and change.

Anyway - as part of the federal review process, there is a 30-day public comment period, which closes Aug. 15. Anyone with any comments/concerns about the project can write to this address:

Jack Karalius
USACOE
New England District
696 Virginia Rd.
Concord, MA 01742-2751
email: nae-pn-nav@usace.army.mil

The phone number they gave was: 987-318-8288 but I do believe the area code should be 978.

Landfill issues dominate

The Ad Hoc Independent Counsel Committee - the one that was set up by the City Council to hire independent counsel and then try to figure out if Council has any legal standing in the mayor's decision to let New Ventuers resume capping the landfill - is meeting tonight at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

Yesterday one of the landfill neighbors approached me at the Farmers' Market and asked me what the neighbors could do, aside from picketing at the mayor's office.

It seems to me that this is a question for an independent counsel.

At the last City Council meeting, Tom Jones stood up and very forcefully called for action. Of course, he lives in the affected area, but does that make a difference?

My friend, who was sitting with me at the market (it's like a cafe out there Sunday mornings) said she has smelled it at her home, near the high school.

Nobody seems to know what the stench is - apparently it's not hydrogen sulfide since nothing is allegedly registering on the meters. Yet no one seems to be investigating what it really is and therefore cannot address the health impact issue.

Meanwhile, where are the reports in the Daily News about all of this? I see that there's a story in today's issue about how the landfill is likely to be a topic of conversation with Gov. Deval Patrick tomorrow evening:

Local opinions are somewhat mixed, but on at least one topic — the landfill — Patrick will likely be in for some criticism.

Tomorrow's visit is expected to follow the same format as last year's. Patrick will do a walking tour of downtown Amesbury a few hours before holding the public forum in Newburyport City Hall.


I thought the meeting was at Waterfront Park, not City Hall, and why is he touring downtown Amesbury prior to the meeting? It is supposed to say downtown Newburyport?

I think he should be touring the landfill. But you can probably bet your ass there won't be any odors around here tomorrow.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ah sweet memories

I was trying to come up with a few stories to convince those of you who might think I'm evil incarnate that I'm not so bad after all. You know, sweet reminisces of my childhood ...

Sadly, all I could come up with was the time I called a bigger kid (in Barbados) a bad name and he threw me off a cliff. I had to have been younger than 7 because we moved to the U.S. within days of my 7th birthday.

Funny thing about that cliff, though: when I went back to Barbados, many years later, it was gone and there was/is a big wide beach there now. I asked what happened to the cliff.

My aunt laughed and said it was only a rock ledge with about a 3-foot drop down to a narrow beach.

Even funnier is the fact, which I've only just recalled, that it was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who turned that rock ledge and that narrow beach across from my grannie's house into a beautiful wide beach. The intention of the USACOE was to make a deep water harbor - or so I was told. *Ahem*


Anyway, then there was the time I called my (biological) father a bad name (could have been the same one) as he drove by where I was playing with my friends. My parents were separated and instead of actually taking me himself for his allowed visitation, he would drop me off at his mother's house.

He screeched his car to a halt, walked back to where I was, grabbed me and put me under his arm so my head was facing backwards and my butt was convenient for spanking. He spanked me all the way up the road, back to Grannie's house. I recall that I was kicking and screaming the whole time.

And then there was the time, in junior high, when some older girls called me a bad name and I ... oh my god! I am a terrible person.

Son of a bitch.

Derrivan stays on the deck

This morning I read with interest a post my sister Sarah wrote on her blog, seagardensandglass, and here it is, in its entirety:


Lies have become so commonplace. Or maybe they always were, but they didn't used to annoy me so much. I am an honest person, a frank person, perhaps too much so. I used to think—-a little ego here—-that honesty was one of those hallmarks of a sterling character.

I confessed to a friend last night that the three things that seem to define me in more and more situations now are that I'm fat, I'm gray, and I'm honest. Her response was that all three are really within my control.

Hmm.


What qualities do you want in a government official; someone who represents you?

I had an interesting discussion with Larry Giunta, author of the Newburyport's Voice blog, at Cafe di Sienna the other day.

One of the many things we talked about was elected officials and how they are really supposed to represent the wishes of the people who elected them (as opposed to what they believe is the best way to go).

Perhaps people elect someone because they believe they will do what his/her constituents want them to do or perhaps they elect a person because they believe the person is smarter than they are and will do the right thing.

Whatever the case, I want to say here that I have always found Brian Derrivan to be like my sister - maybe a little too frank sometimes, a little volatile in some situations (in my sister's case, it's a family trait) but most of all honest.

I have seen what I believe is Derrivan's actual struggle to do what the administration expects of him and what he thinks is right. Good grief - the man goes into the landfill neighborhood and puts his own health at risk by sitting outside people's homes with them.

And Larry Giunta, who is one of his constitutents, said he likes him as well.

I'm not saying this under duress, or because Derrivan asked me to, or anything like that - although I have been worried a bit that my tongue-in-cheek comment about him weaving a good story could be taken by someone who is not familiar with my style as me saying he was lying.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If he was that good at making up a story like that right off the top of his head, I would be recommending he consider a career in writing fiction ...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Poor little thing (rabbit stew)

Something you had to be there to appreciate fully:

Me and Larry McCavitt (my ward councillor) chasing a little bunny around the community garden, this afternoon.

Governor here on Tuesday

Just in case you were confused about this, here's the press release I just got from the Governor's office, about his visit here on Tuesday:

GOVERNOR PATRICK TO HOST TOWN HALL MEETING IN NEWBURYPORT

BOSTON – Friday, July 17, 2009 – In keeping with his commitment to encourage civic engagement and to be the governor of the whole Commonwealth, Governor Deval Patrick will host a town hall meeting in Newburyport on Tuesday, July 21, 2009.

“As we work to overcome the challenges of today, it is important that the citizens of the Commonwealth are involved in the process,” said Governor Patrick. “I look forward to this opportunity to learn how state government can better serve its people.”

WHO: Governor Deval Patrick
WHAT: Town Hall Meeting
WHEN: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Waterfront Park, Market Street, Newburyport

The Governor will host 15 town hall meetings this summer and he encourages all to come and share in the discussion. The meetings are part of Governor Patrick’s efforts to make state government accessible for all people in the Commonwealth. The town hall-style meetings give residents a chance to talk directly to Governor Patrick about issues they care about most, including the economy, the state’s budget challenges, and the Governor’s efforts to push for reforms on Beacon Hill. For more information, and to see photos and videos from previous town hall meetings, visit www.mass.gov/governor/townhall.

I got an additional email asking me if I was going to be covering the event for my blog! It brought tears to my eyes.

Moak denies it all

I was talking to the mayor earlier - and by the way, he did eventually return my call but this was in-person encounter, at the beach meeting.

He tried to escape by coming in late and leaving early, but I ran after him as he left. He (I think) jokingly commented that he was leaving early in an attempt to avoid talking to me.

He said that Ward 5 Councilor Derrivan did not ask him specifically to shut down the landfill, but that rather they had had conversations about it.

Huh ... well the part of Derrivan's story I did not put in my story in the Current is that he said Thibeault (landfill owner) confronted him that same day (last Friday) at the landfill and demanded to know why he had asked Moak to shut down the landfill.

That Brian Derrivan, he sure can weave a good story ...

Beach alliance

What an exciting/informative meeting ... where to start? ... Hold on, checking to see if Ari Herzog ran home and posted something so I don't duplicate ...

Well the dredging/beach nourishment project for Newbury is zipping right along - unless you consider not having easements in place, not having even a fraction of the necessary permits in place, DEP objections and outstanding agreements between Newbury and Salisbury about placement of dredged sand more like "not zipping."

Funny how Salisbury always seems to get its ducks in order so much more efficiently.

Apparently Newbury has some wetlands by-law that limits the time orders of conditions can remain in place to 6 years and the federal government is going to want to see some kind of assurance that Newbury (or its designee) is going to permanently maintain the beach and dunes because the fed is kicking in all this dough to dredge and so on and so forth.

I guess people are concerned that 6 years will come and go and no one will remember that the town needed to look at that permit.

Ahem. There's this new technology now, called a computer ...? What, no one keeps track of this shit? This is pretty alarming.

Mark Habel from the Army Corps of Engineers gave a little presentation of a beach nourishment project they did in Wells Harbor, ME, in 2000.

Cruising right along, he got to the part where he explained what a "toe dike" is. That's where they bulldoze sand from the beach into the surf to make a dike to hold back the surf while they pump the dredged sand onto the beach.

This sand could - and was - called "sacrificial sand."

Seems the DEP has an issue with this methodology. DEP doesn't see the sense of losing sand from the beach in an effort to add sand to the beach.

But this is the "best management practice," according to the Corps.

At this point Bob Connors of the Plum Island Foundation jumped in and said it probably wasn't a good idea to "micro-manage the project."

Also Habel (Army Corps guy) said he is concerned with the progress of the project partnership agreement between the state Dept. of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) and the Corps. The agreement, Habel said, "has to go all the way up the Corps' chain ... that takes time."

And if DCR makes any changes to the agreement - if it so much as adds a comma - the agreement has to go through more scrutiny.

I get the impression that the Corps is not too happy with the beach nourishment part of this project.

Anyway, there is also the little matter of the agreement Newbury has with Salisbury for dredged sand to be dumped on-shore. It's supposed to be, one time Salisbury gets all the sand, the next time Newbury does and so on.

I'll save the rest for later.

Election update

I forgot to mention in a post yesterday that Steve Cole pulled nomination papers for re-election to the School Committee and also pulled papers for Charter Commission. But I did update the sidebar.

Nothing new since then (I just checked).

I'm off to the Merrimack River Beach Association meeting.

Landfill on the wire

Someone put this link in a comment yesterday. I forgot to post it at the time, but it does illustrate how people outside MA are paying attention to our landfill.

The brief report is from a St. Louis firm of environmental attorneys.

“When the gypsum in wallboard rots, it releases hydrogen sulfide gas,” notes Todd Hageman, an attorney with The Simon Law Firm. “Landfills, like the Crow Lane Landfill, should be operated in a manner which sufficiently collects and treats the landfill leachate and gasses, otherwise gasses such as hydrogen sulfide may be released into the surrounding community.”

See? Simon knows ...

Blogging for dummies

Well, I probably would have let it go until when/if it actually happened ... but you two anonymous idiots ignored my warning, spiked the hits on the blog and provoked someone else to reveal the rest of what I heard about the Connell/AYC connection, but didn't say outright because I couldn't prove it.

If you don't kick up a fuss, people tend to not pay that much attention.

Nice work; I'm sure Councillor Connell appreciates your efforts on his behalf. I hope for your sakes that HE doesn't know your real identities.

And somewhere off to the north, Tom Ryan is laughing his ass off ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's that smell?

Ugh, I reported here, yesterday, that I smelled landfill stench all the way down to the traffic circle.


Now Ed Cameron, Ward 4 city councillor, is reporting his own personal experience and that he is receiving complaints.


Well, as much as I hate to go with anecdotal reports rather than facts, the email chain of landfill neighbors is reporting that maybe New Ventures, the landfill owner, is dumping burned construction debris there.


From a resident on Low St., at 10:04 p.m.:


We couldn't take the smoky burnt smell anymore here at xxx Low Street and our smoke detectors are going off. We called the Fire Department and they said "it is the landfill and they have gotten numerous complaints already".. That was the reply, are they doing anything, don't know?? Going to bed will all windows closed..

Yes, that's what got me coughing Tuesday night, as I returned from Amesbury.


Of course, this wealth of information came in AFTER I had filed my landfill story for this week.

I left a message for the mayor, but made another mistake by saying I wanted to talk about the landfill. Funny thing is, that was before I knew about the breakout of hydrogen sulfide that happened this morning when NV was digging the new access road.

Keep the power (I'm a mere mortal)

I've explained this before, but here it goes again:

As I told Barry Connell earlier, sometimes a blog can get away from a person. And as he noted, that's why they can be dangerous.

And, as we were talking I recalled that he announced at a previous City Council meeting at which they were discussing the sewer plant, that he belonged to the AYC.

Further, as he pointed out, any "taking" of land would be done by the city, not the City Council.

And here goes this again: wow, when you get all bent out of shape about something some random person writes, you give them all the power.

You don't want to be doing that. Seriously, that's not good for you. Keep all the power in your own hands.

Councillor Connell gave me a ring on the phone, I admitted to goofing up, and we talked about it like the two rational people that we are. If he had done anything different, it would have given me the power to strike again (not that I particularly meant to strike the first time).

A nice polite questioning of my (or anyone's) post and using a real name would have been more appropriate. Or sending a private email if you don't want your name out there.

So would no longer reading this blog, if that was your choice.

I'm just sayin', as a person who has spent nearly a whole lifetime surrendering power to others by reacting badly, that it's better if you keep that particular power on your side.

Trust me, I'm the reporter.

Clarification/correction

OK, so now someone else has pointed out that the American Yacht Club does not own the land in question, re: 115 Water St.

The owner of record is:

VORIAS ANTHONY-RICHARD TRS
TONICK REALTY TRUST
AMERICAN MARINE & BOAT SALES

The American Yacht Club owns 115R Water St.

I haven't had time to completely review the document I got this morning about the project, but after I put the phone down, I did look at the section about acquisition of 115 Water St. parcel.

What is going on, according to this, is that the access easement that AYC has needs to be relocated.

The report also says that the city solicitor, Kopelman & Paige, "completed the title research necessary to acquire the parcel of land at 115 Water St. via the eminent domain process. The next step will be to conduct a uniqueness determination for the propety. However, this step can not proceed until the city has negotiated a Purchase and Sale agreement with the owner of the property."

So Barry is in the clear! Yay!

People should try writing to me instead of calling city councillors about posts on my blog ... what if I hadn't called this guy for a quote?

P.S. I just posted 2 comments correcting me on this. I appreciate it.

More from the project narrative

'The placement of sand on Plum Island and Salisbury Beach is considered to be a relatively short-term, yet necessary effort, to temporarily alleviate the severe erosion that has occurred in this area. The USACE estimates that the benefits from this beach nourishment effort should last for approximately five (5) years.'

"The total project cost for the dredging and nourishment at Plum Island and Salisbury Beach is currently estimated at approximately $3.7 million."

Possible construction methods (and you think the turbine is bothersome):

Hydraulic Pipeline Method
Pump-Off Hopper Method
or both

Lots of mention of pumps, heavy equipment and portable lights (they would be used to enable work to proceed at night!).

The work window for dredging and disposal is Oct. 1 to March 14.

Happy winter, people living on the Newbury town beach.

And the shit continues to pile up

Well someone has advised me that Barry Connell is a member of the American Yacht Club.

Shouldn't he be recusing himself from this process (taking land from the club through eminent domain) right about now?

Or is mere membership not a conflict, in this case?

Although Connell did mention (unaccountably, to my mind) at Monday's City Council meeting that "the remainder of 115 Water St. will still be up for grabs after construction."

Good luck, Amesbuy and Salisbury

So at the beginning of my wild foray through City Hall this morning, I stopped in the Health Dept. to get a copy of the latest shared health services agreement.

"We don't have it," the woman at the counter said.

She recognized my amazement and went on to say that it was in Amesbury.

"And you don't have a copy here?" I asked, just to be sure I was understanding her correctly.

No, she assured me, it was in Amesbury - and I'd have to get it from Amesbury. I will note here that Amesbury's City Clerk, Bonnijo Kitchin, offered last night to send me one today if I couldn't get one.

Anyway, back to the Newburyport Board of Health, in whose hands both Amesbury and Salisbury have placed their faith.

The woman didn't stop there. She proceeded to volunteer that Amesbury passed the agreement last night and that "them and all" were there at the meeting.

"Who was at the meeting?" I asked.

"Mr. Morris," she replied.

"No he wasn't," I said, although I did add that he could have been up in that little glassed-in room where Kezer watches the Municipal Council meetings.

She blinked - but reiterated that he had been there.

"Well I didn't see him, and I was there," I replied as I turned to leave.

So up to the Clerk's Office, where Richard Jones very helpfully provided me with a copy of the updated agreement, which I knew damn well Newburyport had because the City Councillors all had copies of it on Monday night and it's our friggin' agreement.

WTF?

If she had said that she couldn't give it to me without Jack Morris' approval, I would have been a bit peeved - but why lie?

Yeah, this whole shared services thing is going to work out really well.

ConCom meeting

Mary Reilly told me the ConCom meeting cannot be changed/delayed because it has been posted ... but she did say that the dredging and beach nourishment almost certainly won't be discussed until at least after the governor's talk is scheduled to end.

There are 2 agenda items ahead of those 2 items.

OK, so I now have a copy of the 'project narrative' from the Notice of Intent. I also looked at the figures (pics and plans) submitted with the notice.

Dredge sediments will be hydraulically dredged and pumped via a temporary pipeline to the Newbury section of Plum Island and Salisbury Beach for beach and dune nourishment. It is anticipated that the temporary pipeline will be approximately 22 to 24-inches in diameter and will be placed along existing beach grades between Mean High Water (MHW) and the toe of the existing dunes ...

The total length of the dredge pipeline on Plum Island will be approximately 3,600 feet, extending from the south jetty on Plum Island in Newburyport to the nourishment site on Plum Island which is located entirely within the Town of Newbury ... The length of the temporary pipeline that will be placed along the Newburyport shoreline is estimated to be approximately 1,450 feeet.


Questions?

One more thing

And then I have to run and write my 2 stories for the Current.

At-large Councillor Barry Connell gave an update on the wastewater treatment facility mods at Monday's City Council meeting.

In the course of his remarks, I noticed he said, "The taking of 115 Water St." instead of "The purchase of 115 Water St."

That's the private property next to the plant, to the west, that is needed to stage the construction equipment and later as a location for the new building.

So of course I had to nab him after the meeting and ask what he meant by "taking."

Well, it seems that the owner there - the yacht club people - did not accept offers made by the city so the city is going to take the property through eminent domain.

"The only reasonable course for the city is to proceed with eminent domain," Connell told me, adding that this is not necessarily a bad thing for the owner.

From the Wikipedia:
Eminent domain (United States of America), compulsory purchase (United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ireland), resumption/compulsory acquisition (Australia) or expropriation (South Africa and Canada's common law systems) is the inherent power of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent. The property is taken either for government use or by delegation to third parties who will devote it to public or civic use or, in some cases, economic development. The most common uses of property taken by eminent domain are for public utilities, highways, and railroads.[citation needed] Some jurisdictions require that the government body offer to purchase the property before resorting to the use of eminent domain.

There's more to this story about stimulus funds but I have to get some more info from the sewer dept. One more stop on my visit to City Hall - which I should be on my way to right now.

This is not one of my 2 stories for this week's Current.

More thoughts on shared services

I was just reading the story in the Daily News about Amesbury's Municipal Council approving the shared health services agreement.

Because I was sort of charged up last night after the meeting, I held off commenting a lot about things that were said at the meeting, but in the light of a new day -

Aside from the "excess capacity" remark by Robert Lavoie, Councilor Allen Neale also remarked that the town had held 2 workshops on the agreement - neither of which anyone from Newburyport attended.

There was no one from Newburyport at last night's meeting, either (I mean in an official municipal capacity, of course, since Lynn Hendricks and I both live here).

Neale also noted, by the way, the Salisbury had given Neil Harrington authorization to accept minor changes to the agreement.

Anyway, I think that if I were debating such an agreement to basically hand over important city functions to another community, I'd sort of like to see at least one person from that other community who is taking an interest.

At the earlier meeting of our City Council (when the issue was tabled the first time), both Chairman Roger Benson and Lavoie were in the audience.

On Monday, Mayor Kezer's Chief of Staff Kendra Amaral was there, sitting next to our Health Director Jack Morris - an individual who stands to gain a lot in this deal, by the way. But he deserves it, Lavoie implied.

"Newburyport has expertise in the administrative function in the health area that is the envy of all of us," Lavoie said. "They're well organized and have good personnel there. It's just a fact of life that some people do things better."


Somehow thoughts of a certain landfill crept into my head - and I had to smile.

Speaking of the landfill, I drove down Low St. on my way home, for the specific purpose of checking out the aroma in the area.

I did not smell anything as I passed by Crow Lane, but I did start coughing down near Hale St. and there was a detectable sharp smell there, as there was at the Dunkin Donuts on the traffic circle (it was not as strong there).

But back to the issue at hand.

See, now here's the thing - if Newburyport does not join in this agreement, Amesbury will be totally screwed, having decimated its Dept. of Health and laid off its animal control officer and all that.

Amesbury must be pretty damned confident that this is going to pass our City Council, in spite of the fact that from the meeting a few weeeks ago, it did not look as if Newburyport was going to go for it.

But I guess we should note what Neale also said (this is from the DN):

And for their services, Amesbury and Salisbury will pay Newburyport and make it equitable in the process, said Councilor Allen Neale, chairman of the Finance Committee.

"Newburyport is going to pick up all the variable costs, but they also get from us a contribution to their fixed cost, which reduces their property tax bill at the end of the day," Neale said. "Anytime you more than cover your variable costs and pick up a fixed cost, that's good for the community."

Well I guess that's true, except from what I understand Newburyport is going to hire an animal control officer to cover nights and weekends and also pay a fee to Salisbury for its animal control guy. And don't forget the retirement thing.

Conflicting emotions

Just a reminder that Gov. Deval Patrick will be in Newburyport next Tuesday, July 21, at 6:30 p.m.

For all of you who are busily adding this to your calendar, you might notice the conflict with the ConCom meeting ...

I don't know if the gov. will be speaking inside or outside, though. If he's inside City Hall, people can run up and down the stairs to catch both. Good exercise.

I'm running up to City Hall after 9 to catch Mary Reilly and take a peek at the Notice of Intent ConCom will be continuing to discuss.

Maybe ConCom will postpone its meeting until 7:30, when Patrick is scheduled to depart (although he stayed longer than scheduled in Amesbury last year).

Only an hour? We could fill that up just with comments about the landfill.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Amesbury goes for it

The Amesbury Municipal Council within the last hour accepted the shared health services agreement.

Apparently they believe that Newburyport has "excess capacity" to deliver health services to three communities. I mean, that's what one of them said.

Someone pointed out to me (privately) that not only will Newburyport be paying for the bulk of the services, but that citizens here will foot the entire bill for Health Director Jack Morris' retirement, based on his increased salary.

Pffft

ConCom questions sand pipes

Reader Bubba has written in to ask about Newburyport's Conservation Commission (or ConCom) and whether it has, in fact, denied access to Newburyport's beach for this beach nourishment effort in Newbury.

According to Mary Reilly, the conservation person in the Planning Dept., the discussion on the Notice of Intent filed with the city has, in fact, been continued to ConCom's next meeting, July 21.

Reilly said they hope someone from the Army Corps of Engineers will be there to answer questions.

She said commissioners had 'a lot of questions' about the pipe that will carry the sand from the mouth of the river to the Newbury town beach. These are some or all of the questions/concerns:

  1. The pipe, which I understand will be of some kind of plastic material (couldn't get a confirmation on its width, although 2-3 ft. was suggested), will be on the beach for 2-3 months, during winter when of course they are a lot of coastal storms. Will the pipe be able to withstand a storm?
  2. What happens if it should break?
  3. Exactly where will the pipe be placed? The Notice says above mean high water, but erosion around 55th St. makes that kind of sketchy.

Reilly said there were also concerns about the barge(s), which will necessarily be in the channel at the mouth of the river and will have floating pipes through which the sand will flow to the on-shore pipe.

The Merrimack River Beach Alliance has a meeting scheduled for this Friday at 10 a.m. at PITA Hall (Plum Island).

You'd think someone from the ACOE would have been there on July 7, which is when the last meeting of ConCom was held.

I like our ConCom - they are not a rubber stamp.

Outside seating/alcohol

Well you would have thought the City Council would be done debating this, but - well - no.

Ward 2 City Councillor Greg Earls - his ward includes most of downtown - wanted to suspend the rules and act on the amended ordinance about alcohol consumption on public ways but that didn't work.

"I'm fairly confident that this makes sense and is in keeping with other communities," he said.

Unless it has a special meeting about the shared health services agreement, the City Council isn't meeting again until mid-August (4 weeks).

Well, as Earls added, the season is flying by and these poor businesses need the outdoor alcohol service.

Actually, I think it's just the one business - The Port Tavern - although the Oregano application with changes is still sitting in committee after being rebuffed by the state alcohol commission.

But, as usual, there is a larger issue here and that is: why was the License Commission giving approvals for outdoor alcohol service when there was an ordinance on the books against such a thing?

They did make their approval contingent upon approval of the City Council's License & Permits committee, but still.

As At-large Councillor Katie Ives said, "The License Commission should have held back on their decision," adding that it was "putting the cart before the horse."

People seem to think that objections to violations of procedure are objections to serving alcohol at outside seating.

But no - there is a process, there are laws, and they should be followed.

Perhaps the Port Tavern should review the menu, which has no lunch specials and is thus rather pricey for lunch.

Plus, when I was there on Friday with a group of about 10 people, at least 3 of them, upon ordering a beer, were told the place doesn't carry that brand (different brands). Not to mention the fact that the waitress griped about separate checks ("It's not my favorite thing to do, but OK.")

But Oregano - the place has really improved, which is a credit to executive chef Jamie Parsons and owner Claude Elias. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is, well ... we know what it is.

Good job, gentlemen. Hope you can keep afloat until you get permission to serve alcohol outside.

P.S. I don't know about firetrucks on Inn St.; I only know the Fire Chief had to approve whatever scheme Oregano had for a barrier between the alcohol-consuming patrons and the general public.

Ticket booth issue still sticky

I read with a bit of horror Mary Baker Eaton's post today about the discussions around where to relocate that contentious ticket booth.

Then I clicked on the link Mary provided, to the Yahoo group of the Waterfront Trust.

Seems like the WFT is not in agreement with the city and other groups that the booth would best be put at the terminus of the Old Wharf Way (that cut-through on the berm with the granite in the middle so cars can't drive through).

At least a couple of them think it would be better to put the booth in the middle of the sculpture park ... and that's what Mary's on about.

My first issue here is that Senior Project Mgr. Geordie Vining had a meeting with attorney Bill Harris and Ward 1 City Councillor Larry McCavitt about where to put the booth - and no one from the WFT was invited to the meeting.

This harkens me back to last night, when Tom Jones said something similar about the harborwalk - that the mayor and the Planning Office negotiated something without input from appropriate parties.

My second issue here is this Yahoo Group that the WFT has going. I thought public entities were not supposed to deliberate behind the backs of the public.

Click on the link (same as the one above) and see if it doesn't seem like they are deliberating.

Harborwalk restrictions approved

Well once again a City Council with serious issues with the state DEP approves something because the DEP thinks it's a good idea.

I got nothing else here because I just cannot believe they did this AGAIN.

OK, so there will be no lights on the boardwalk so it's a safety issue to say people can go on there at night. Fine.

Why are there no lights? Aren't there lights at that private marina?

Oh heaven forbid the residents should have people walking by their windows; it's not as if the city wants to allow a giant windmill to be built practically right outside ... oh, wait. Never mind.

Council President James Shanley relinquished his chair briefly to speak in favor of this whole thing and said it would not set a precedent for "Steve Karp" ... yeah, right.

Karp is not going to say, "Well it's what you did over there, so why am I being treated differently?"

By the way, I do believe the public docks (such as they are) at the Black Cow have a similar "dawn to dusk" restriction, so I guess the precedent was already set.

I think it's interesting what while Larry McCavitt (Ward 1) brought up the fact that the River's Edge condos operated for years without a Chapter 91 license, he didn't bring up that the reason the boardwalk is going by there at all is because the place didn't pay the fines for not having a license and had to cave on the Memorandum of Understanding in exchange.

Talk about not taking advantage of the upper hand ... and using the DEP like a little hand puppet.

Council tables regionalized health deal (again)

As reported in the Daily News today, the City Council once again tabled a vote on the shared health services agreement.

This is about as weird as it gets.

Well, actually, no it isn't but it sounded good, didn't it?

Salisbury has already approved the agreement and then Amesbury goes ahead and changes it? I notice nobody said last night what the changes were ... Donna Holaday only said they were "clarification changes."

What is the legality of changing an agreement, however minor the changes, that Salisbury has already voted to adopt?

Water St. parking

I like this one - the City Council is debating whether to restrict parking on Water St. south side from Federal St. to Independent St.

I have no idea where Independent St. is, but this is the area around The Tannery.

This is a nightmare stretch of road, right up to Market Square. It's the way I - and everyone on this side of town, I would guess - get into town. Even before The Tannery, it's awful.

And when there's a truck, delivering stuff to The Tannery - well, did I mention it's a nightmare?

And further along, towards town? I've already moaned and groaned about not being able to see oncoming cars when pulling out from a side street/parking lot because of the cars parked along the street.

Having said that, I think it only needs to be restricted during the day. It all clears out after business hours.

Candidates making moves

It was cool to see city councillors after last night's meeting - it's Tuesday now - outside City Hall, signing each other's nomination papers.

I asked At-large Councillor Barry Connell if it was hard to get the 50 necessary signatures and he said not really, but it was a lot of work.

Being a sitting councillor is obviously a boost since you should already know a bunch of people to solicit.

I ran into Ari Herzog at the RiverFest thingie on Saturday, and he was clutching his clipboard with his nomination papers, as he was last night.

The only other city official I saw there was Marshal Howard (police chief) but I don't think he was on duty.

So as not to appear to be giving a 'thumbs up' to Ari, here are other candidates with websites that are either under construction or up and running:

Donna Holaday
Kathleen O'Connor Ives
James Shanley

Of course, Ed Cameron already has his blog; and most of them are now on Facebook and/or Twitter.

I'll be putting this information in the sidebar once everything is firmed up (as in, when any of these people become official candidates).

Monday, July 13, 2009

Maybe they're already experts

So you - or more accurately, I - have to wonder about (non-sitting) candidates for City Council who don't show up to the meetings.

Maybe they are watching it on cable.

I remember in 2007, people who were running for office suddenly started showing up to municipal meetings, including School Committee. None of those people, as far as I can tell, kept it up after they lost the election.

People may not realize it, but Brian Derrivan was at every City Council meeting I covered in 2007 (I didn't cover the City Council the whole year).

I'm not endorsing Derrivan (or anyone else, for that matter) but at least he was pretty familiar with what goes on inside City Council Chambers before he took office.

Here I should note that Bob Cronin, who is running in Ward 3, has been at the last 2 meetings - but as a member of the Harbor Commission to comment on the regulations concerning the harborwalk.

That amendment to the ordinance was passed tonight, by the way.

But as the meeting came to a close, only Cronin (certified candidate) and Ari Herzog (potential candidate) were left in the audience. That is, except for me, Katie Farrell from the Daily News, assorted city officials and Stewart Lytle, the new reporter in town.

I'm not endorsing Cronin or Herzog, either (like I said). I'm just sayin' ...

Alcohol outside

I see in the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting that the Council has to amend an existing ordinance to allow for outside consumption of alcohol on public property.

Better late than never, right?

The Council hasn't actually approved any outside consumption of alcohol on public property - well not any that was approved by the state - but there are a couple of requests - Oregano and The Port Tavern.

I was at Port Tavern for lunch last Friday with a group I may be writing about and I asked one of the guys if he would sit outside to dine if he couldn't drink out there.

He said "no" and that he would expect to be able to have a drink with his lunch or dinner.

But it didn't stop him from patronizing the place.

Waterfront Festival

So I went to the Riverfront Festival last Saturday; against my better judgment I might add.

What a freakin' nightmare!

I hope it was good for local businesses but boy the people in the downtown neighborhoods can't have been happy with the number of people cruising for parking spots.

I was once told by a former staff person in the Chamber office that they tried to book lesser-known bands for these events so there were not too many people in the city. Apparently too many people puts too much of a strain on the infrastructure.

But anytime I can sing along to 2 of the songs the band played - that's not a "lesser-known band." Plus young girls squealing at the sight of some other band member is not usually an indication of obscurity ....

There were too many people, in my opinion. But I do hope it was good for business.

Election update

Well at last we have a little movement on the candidate front - Bob Cronin (running for Ward 3 councillor) turned in his nomination papers and was certified as an official candidate.

I would say I can't believe the last time I had to update the list was June 26, but Tricia in the Clerk's Office checked for me and a whole bunch of people in 2007 waited until the last week to turn in their papers.

"The last week" would be next week.

So next week should be interesting.

Friday, July 10, 2009

So I was wandering around town on Wednesday morning, in the damp with my new friend from Dallas, reporter Stewart Lytle.

His wife owns, or partly owns, that new store there on Pleasant St. next to the new Three Sisters place (is that its name?).

I notice that someone (Waterfront Trust?) has marked off and numbered parking spots, including ones right up against Davis Electric. This must be in preparation for paid parking, which by the way I think is a bad idea.

It will give the appearance that you can't get down to the waterfront without paying, which I'm sure is not going to be good for the Black Cow or PI Coffee Roasters. I don't think too many people from out of town are going to pull in and wonder, "Oh, is there free parking at that restaurant down there, beyond this paid parking?"

There is free parking at that restaurant down there. And what about people going to the Chamber of Commerce? I mean, it's good that it's hourly, and $.50 is peanuts ... so maybe it won't be so bad.

I keep forgetting that everywhere else under the sun, you have to pay to park (except a mall, of course, but malls don't generally offer whale watch cruises).

So I'm guessing the right-of-way to the former Lagasse property/now Karp property is the little alleyway running along the west of Davis Electric.

Oh the drama.